Nearly every company wants to better understand their customers so they can find ways to improve the customer service and build brand loyalty. But actually finding the answers and putting them into practice are two different things. Transforming customer service isn’t a quick solution, but it can lead to fantastic results when done correctly.
Customer service experts Jeannie Walters and Adam Toporek consult with numerous companies each year on how to improve their customer service. Their vast experience has taught them that improving customer service is never a one-step solution. Although each organization can follow the same steps, the journey to a quality customer service is personalized for each company.
In order to truly make a change, the company has to identify what it wants to achieve. Everyone knows that customer service experience is good, but few companies actually know how it relates to their goals and strategies. One of the first steps companies need to take when redefining customer service experiences is to realize the business outcomes they want to achieve so they can connect specific aspects of the customer service experience to those goals. For example, if a company wants to build its referrals by a certain amount, it needsf to focus on creating brand loyal customers who return and are eager to refer the company to their friends. That goal could tie into the post-sale aspects of customer service experience and following up to make sure each customer is satisfied.
With goals in mind, brands need to understand what their current customer service experience is really like. Many companies think they have an idea of what customers experience and how they feel, but surveys can be deceiving. After all, the results a company gets are completely dependent on the questions it asks and can often paint a skewed picture. To accurately understand the customer journey, brands need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. Jeannie notes that when she works with an organization, she completes a full customer service experience investigation, including observing how employees interact with customers, walking through the digital experience multiple times, and looking for holes in the experience that could affect customers. Getting immersed in the customer service at a human level can often provide more accurate feedback than looking at surveys.
With an idea of the current situation, companies can then consider their ideal customer service—how would things look if everything went smoothly? That goal can help guide the next steps to take to make the dream a reality.
Of course, perfect customer service can’t be created overnight and takes constant tweaking and evolution. Both Jeannie and Adam believe one of the most important parts of creating lasting change in customer service is to have leaders who understand the importance of customer service and who are on board with change. If leaders invested, even the grandest ideas can’t take root to create a lasting change.
Customer service involves many different aspects, but one of the key features is understanding the customer and what they want out of the journey. Being strategic and working through the steps to transform customer service experience can lead to positive and lasting change.
New regulations from the EU are impacting customer data around the world and causing companies to make big changes or risk getting hit with heavy fines. But instead of fearing the change and just throwing money at the problem, complying with the regulations can be thought of as an opportunity to rethink and improve the customer experience.
The General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) is creating a buzz that Jeff Nicholson, VP CRM Product Marketing at Pegasystems, likens to the anticipation surrounding Y2K. Essentially, the new regulation requires any company anywhere in the world that uses EU residents’ personal data to re-think their data strategy. That means that companies in the US are still affected if they have ever done anything like collect email addresses or names of people who live in the EU. If companies don’t comply with the regulations, they could be fined up to 4% of their total global revenue. Under GDPR, individual customers can approach companies to find out what personal data they have, and organizations have to provide the data to the customer. Essentially, the new rules change who owns personal data—instead of companies, the power is now in the hands of customers.
The new rules come at a time when data breaches are found every day and affect millions of people a year. People around the world are more aware of their personal data and want to find ways to protect it and know who has access to it. Companies must take safeguarding their customers’ data very seriously. If customers don’t feel their information is being protected, they will take their business elsewhere, which can lead to huge PR and financial consequences for companies.
A recent survey found that more than 90% of multinational companies consider GDPR to be a top priority, and many are allocating significant budget to solve data problems and come into compliance. The majority of large companies say they plan to spend at least a million dollars on their new data strategy.
If the money is being spent anyway, smart companies will put it to good use and do more than just put their data practices in compliance with GDPR—they will use it as an opportunity to transform customer experience and become a leader in their fields. This is a great chance for companies to combine compliance with marketing. Instead of simply just plugging a hole in the data stream, think of how you collect data and how it can be better used and targeted. Now that customers have more control over what companies have their information, irrelevant communication from companies puts those brands at risk of losing the customer. All it takes is one bad communication for the customer to opt out and have their data removed.
The best companies not only respect and safeguard customer information but also use it to create open lines of communication that really help the customer. With all the data available, companies have the potential to create targeted outreach that meets the needs of every individual customer. This can be done a number of ways, but Jeff recommends getting people from across the company, especially from compliance and marketing, involved. Investing in the right technology to monitor, track, and safeguard customer data is also incredibly important. Being transparent with the customer information you have can also build a better relationship with customers. Many people are wary about who has their personal data, and they will likely be more trusting of companies that can show where they gathered the data, what they are using it for, and who has access to it. Data plays a huge role in customer experience, and being able to monitor and target it better can lead to better relationships between companies and customers.
GDPR is changing how companies handle customer data, but it is much more than just a compliance issue. In order to lead the new data conversation, companies should use the opportunity to re-think their customer experience and find new, relevant ways to reach out to customers.
The majority of customer interaction today happens on the phone, but that isn’t the way most customers prefer to communicate or the most effective way for brands to interact with customers. Phones can be frustrating, email can feel like spam, and in-person communication can be inconsistent. Instead, a growing number of brands are turning to chatbots via Facebook Messenger to add value to the customer experience in a way that is easier than ever and preferred by the companies and the customers.
When Facebook opened the Messenger platform in 2016, it had a good idea of what the technology could do for companies, but Kemal El Moujahid, product manager at Facebook, said the team was surprised by the creativity of how brands around the world were using the chatbot function. Instead of relying on traditional methods like blanket sales offers and mass communication, bots provide opportunities for real-time, personalized communication that can meet the needs of customers right where they are. Brands can easily tailor the needs of the bot to showcase their message and products and reach out to customers in an accessible and useful way.
In order to be successful in building the customer experience, brands need to be clear about what they want their bots to do. A bot that is designed to bring customers into the store will perform differently than a bot that is designed to provide product recommendations and education. Brands need to understand how customers are using the bot and how it can play the most effective role in the customer journey. An example of this comes from Sephora, which uses its Facebook bot to educate its customers about its products and offerings—its bot can provide personalized makeup recommendations and allows customers to find stores and book beauty treatments. Sephora’s customers have a much better experience when they understand the products they are looking for, which is where the bot can help.
Because bot communication is more natural and casual, it adds a personal feel to a brand and helps create a life-long relationship between the customer and the business throughout the entire customer journey. Bots can be used to bring in new customers and to build on existing relationships. McDonalds restaurants in Brazil print codes that link to their Facebook bot—when customers access the bot, they get added benefits and build a stronger relationship with the brand that gets them to come back to the store.
A huge draw for bots is their convenience. Instead of having to download a new app or program, bots are instantly available to the millions of users already connected to Facebook Messenger around the world. Bots can be developed and updated fairly quickly and inexpensively, which means companies can make changes to quickly best meet the needs of their customers. As the customer journey evolves, so too can the bot’s performance.
Bots will continue to play a major role as the customer experience grows and becomes more personalized. Bots gather lots of information to distill it down to the most relevant information for customers, allowing for better personalization at scale. The days of spending hours on the phone to answer questions are done—today’s customers are all about using bots for questions, service, and product information. As brands around the world can attest, Facebook makes it easier than ever to build customer relationships via bots.
Verizon Wireless is known for trying new, innovative things to expand its business and reach new customers. In the competitive mobile space, it takes a concerted effort to build the customer experience. Verizon Wireless recently took it a step further when it brought in Scott Zimmer to serve in a new position as its Chief Customer Experience Officer. According to Scott, customer experience definitely creates a competitive advantage over other companies. Verizon’s goal is to go above and beyond to build brand loyalty and brand love so that customers prefer the company for reasons beyond it just having the best price. Its perspective and practices can help companies in all industries.
Verizon views the customer experience as a complete journey, from a prospective customer looking into the company to actually making a purchase to then using the service and having a continued great experience. With interactions happening online, in person, in the app, and on the phone, the company aims to make every interaction consistent with the Verizon brand. One new way it is doing that is through its new concept store in San Francisco. The next-gen retail store concept adds emotion and humanity to a technology service and is another opportunity for Verizon to build relationships with customers. Scott says that the retail store experience can be used by other companies and industries that can apply their products and services in a tangible space. For Verizon, that means creating a coffee shop-esque space that shows off its products, including virtual reality headsets that customers can test.
Scott brings together experience in the business and customer spaces and states that every company should be thinking of business and customer strategies in tandem. If a company only focuses on business, it won’t have customers, but if it only focuses on customers, it won’t have business. To truly create a unique customer experience, brands need to build emotional connections while still showcasing their products and driving sales.
The keys to a great customer experience include having a corporate culture that reflects customer values and leaders who set the tone for a customer focus. In order to provide a consistent experience that meets the customer where they, Scott and his team involve every employee to connect the dots of the entire customer journey. Every detail impacts customer service, and making it a priority in everything the company does can lead to great success, especially in an industry as competitive as wireless. Verizon is an example of the benefits that come from prioritizing customer experience and investing the resources to put customers first.